Episode 103: The Good Friends puzzle out the appeal of investigative games

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We’re back, and we’re polishing our magnifying glasses, scraping the gum off our shoes and hunting for clues. This is the first of two episodes delving into the appeal of investigative games. A big topic such as this demands extra resources, so we have brought in Mike Mason, line editor for Call of Cthulhu, to help us with our enquiries.

“Give us five minutes with him and we’ll make him sing.” “Uh oh. That never ends well.”

Our discussion this episode focuses on defining what we mean by an investigative game and providing some tips and techniques for approaching investigations as a player. Because of the amount of time these topics took, we have separated our discussion about running investigative games into a second episode, which will be along in two weeks or as soon as we can follow its trail to the end.

We’ll get back on the trail once naptime is over.

It was harder than you may think to pin down exactly what an investigative game is. Investigation has arguably been part of roleplaying for as long as RPGs have been around, an element, like horror, that you can add to pretty well any setting or genre. Call of Cthulhu was the first game to place investigation at the forefront, creating a style of play now seen in a great variety of RPGs. But are only games with such a focus investigative? Is investigation a matter for mechanics or roleplaying?

“I rolled 00 on my Spot Hidden. Is that a problem?” “No, don’t worry. There’s nothing to see here.”

Speaking of inexplicable occurrences that lead to madness and horror, we sing again in this episode. In my opinion, Paul has outdone himself with the mixes of these two audio nightmares. If you are puzzled by why we would do such a thing to your ears, this is our way of thanking those generous Patreon backers who pledge $5 an episode. This was supposed to be the episode where we finally caught up with all the outstanding thanks we owe to our wonderful patrons. Before we had a chance to do so, however, we had another $5 backer, so there will be at least one more song in the next episode as well. There is no escape for any of you.

Posted in Call of Cthulhu, Roleplaying Games, The Good Friends of Jackson Elias | Leave a comment

Episode 102: The Good Friends are sucked into Event Horizon

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We’re back and we’re heading out into uncharted space. Where better to talk about horror movies? This time it’s the turn of 1997’s Event Horizon, an ambitious film that blends science fiction, cosmic horror, religious imagery and extreme gore to create something that should have been exceptional. It is blessed with a terrific cast, imaginative production design and special effects that largely stand up 20 years on. So where did it all go wrong?

And why waste expensive special effects on people who are only going to gouge their eyes out?

Event Horizon is not a terrible film, but it is a flawed one. These flaws make it useful to discuss, as they provide some strong counter-examples of the things that make stories and games work. We spend much of the episode teasing out the lessons Event Horizon can teach us and learning how we can avoid making the same mistakes.

Avoiding hull breaches is a good start.

That is not to say that our discussion is entirely negative. We got most of that out of our system in the last episodeEvent Horizon has plenty of redeeming features. There are juicy ideas and images we can steal for our games, some of which are genuinely nightmarish. And any film that gives Sam Neil free rein to chew the scenery can’t be all bad.

Although some of the scenery looks like it could chew back.

Speaking of things that aren’t entirely awful, we sing again in this episode. Yes, I know I’m being generous here. We are gradually working our way through our backlog of $5 Patreon backers, thanking each with a custom soundscape dragged from a Hell dimension through perversions of technology. It is only safe to create two of these per episode, which means that it has taken a while to catch up. We still have two more brave souls to sing to, which means we should be current by episode 103.

In space, no one can hear you sing.

In our news segment, Matt mentions the Kickstarter campaign for the 7th Guest board game. It still has over three weeks to run at the time of posting, so there is plenty of time to back a game full of maddening puzzles with which to vex and alienate your friends. We also discuss some actual play recordings of scenarios we have written, promising to gather links on this very website. Well, here they are. And, of course, we should link to Bret Kramer’s series of articles on August Derleth’s posthumous collaborations with Lovecraft. Thank you for sparing us the task of rereading them ourselves, Bret!

Posted in Horror Films, The Good Friends of Jackson Elias | 2 Comments

Episode 101 – The Good Friends disappear down the memory hole

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We’re back and we’re indulging in some therapeutic negativity. Normally, we use the podcast to talk about things we like. This time we’re venting our bile ducts, spewing forth about aspects of gaming, books and films that give us dyspepsia. We are generally positive, or at least as positive as people who write about soul-crushing horrors in a cold and uncaring universe can be. It turns out, however, that there are an awful lot of things that irritate us.

Buy Matt a cocktail at a convention, ask what irritates him and clear your schedule for the following week.

We gave a lot of thought to things to drop down the memory hole, but actually spent most of our prep time debating whether our listeners would know what the memory hole was. Having seen some of the learned comments you lot post on social media, I have every faith in you! That said, we still may need to explain what we’re doing with the concept. As this is episode 101, Paul suggested we do a riff on the long-running BBC panel show, Room 101. We tried not to ape it too closely, partly so we could make it our own, but mostly to avoid painful and unnecessary lawsuits.

We would put lawyers in Room 101, but that would leave us without some of our favourite players.

Room 101, the TV series, is inspired by George Orwell’s novel, 1984. The book’s Room 101 is a torture chamber tailored to each prisoner, containing their idea of the worst thing in the world. The TV programme interprets this as somewhere that panellists may consign the things they would like to remove from existence. Not only is this wrong, but 1984 already includes such a conceit in the form of the memory hole. We explain this a little more in the episode itself.

Forget mundane horrors like rats. Scott’s Room 101 is filled with incorrect interpretations of Room 101.

Speaking of the worst thing in the world, we sing again in this episode. This is our enthusiastic but fundamentally misguided way of thanking our generous $5 Patreon backers. If the singing sounds slightly less awful than usual, it’s because Mike Mason joined us for this recording. He is trained in this kind of thing and tried to curb our worst excesses.

We, on the other hand, take this kind of approach to singing.

Our normally short news segment is a little longer than usual. There seems to be a lot going on. We mention the ongoing Kickstarter campaigns for Q Workshop’s metal Cthulhu dice and for Triple Ace Games Mythos Cthulhu Mythos book badges. If you are interested in the latter, you had better act quickly. The campaign will end around 24 hours after this episode goes live. We also have news of the release of Chaosium’s Grand Grimoire of Mythos Magic and issue 2 of our own Blasphemous Tome fanzine.

Fly, my pretties, fly!

We also mention a couple of videos in the episode, both dice-related. The first is Mike Mason’s brief overview of the Q-Workshop Cthulhu metal dice set. The second is Louis Zocchi of GameScience, explaining what is wrong with most polyhedral dice. I never realised how passionate someone could be on the subject of RPG dice until I watched Colonel Zocchi’s video. I shall never be able to look at the contents of my dice pouch in quite the same way again.

Posted in Horror Films, Horror Stories, Roleplaying Games, The Good Friends of Jackson Elias | 1 Comment

Episode 100 – The Good Friends ponder the appeal of Lovecraft

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We’re back and we’ve made it to 100! There’s no sign of our telegram from the Queen yet, but it will surely be here any minute. We have spent countless hours sitting around in a drafty shed or clustering around a microphone perched on a teetering pile of books to get here. Much of that time was spent in helpless laughter or streams of virulent profanity, but Paul has done an excellent job of editing around this to leave you with something resembling a podcast. And now we have 100 episodes to show for it (or 102, if you count the specials, which we are choosing not to). We could scarcely be more excited!

Lovecraft smiling

This episode is so exciting that it almost made Howie grin.

To celebrate our centuried status, we thought we’d tackle a big topic. As Call of Cthulhu writers, it’s no exaggeration to say that Lovecraft plays a central role in our lives. He is a larger presence than many people we actually know in person and who aren’t dead. But why is this the case? What is it about the man and his work that exerts such a hold on us?

Lovecraft was a complex figure, and while this episode is largely a celebration of what we love about his work, we try not to shy away from his negative aspects, most notably his racism. We hope the result is a balanced, reasonable discussion.

The latter part of the episode is given over to an interview with Sandy Petersen, creator of Call of Cthulhu, in which he discusses the influence Lovecraft has had on his own life and work. Unsurprisingly, he has some deep and fascinating insights to share.

Clearly the smile of a man who has spent decades getting to the heart of Lovecraft.

And, once again, there is singing. We have a large number of Patreon backers to thank, including several at the $5 level. Regular listeners will know that this means that we create aural nightmares to thank these brave and generous people. We actually tried to sing this time instead of just making strange, gibbering noises. I’m not convinced the result is any less disturbing. Once again, to limit the damage done, we have restricted ourselves to two songs. This means that there are still several people waiting for us to sing our thanks to them, and we will share them over the next few episodes.

Posted in H.P. Lovecraft, Horror Stories, The Good Friends of Jackson Elias | Leave a comment

The Blasphemous Tome issue 2 goes to press

Issue 2 of the print-only fanzine The Blasphemous Tome will be sent to our Patreon backers in mid-March. Anyone who is a backer by Sunday the 12th of March will receive a copy.

This is the fanzine we produce exclusively for Patreon backers of The Good Friends of Jackson Elias podcast. We will send at least one copy to all backers.

  • Everyone pledging at the $1 level will receive one copy
  • Everyone pledging at the $3 level will receive one signed copy
  • Everyone pledging at the $5 level will receive two copies, one of which will be signed

The Blasphemous Tome only exists in printed form, like the fanzines of yore. Paul and Scott come from an age when ‘zines were our internet forums, connecting gamers across the world. In order to recapture the spirit of that time, Matt has worked hard to make the Tome look like an artefact from the 1980s. Issue 1 featured skewed columns, paste marks and liberal use of the Courier font. Matt regularly reminds Paul and Scott how much he hates us for making him do this.

This issue sees the return of several columns, as well as some new features. Highlights include:

  • A Peek Inside the Recording Studio
  • Cocktail Corner
  • The Ludomancers
  • Interview with a Listener
  • After Lovecraft
  • Vinyl Corner
  • 2016: A Year of Horrors
  • Episodes of Insanity
  • Plush of the Month
  • Cold Hand in Mine
  • Die, die, die!
  • Who is Jackson Elias?
  • How to Sing Like the Good Friends
  • Pet’s Corner

We have also collaborated on a new scenario for this issue. It involves three friends who create a blasphemous tome. Recursion holds no fear for us!

The excellent cover art comes from good friend of the Good Friends, Jonathan Wyke. You may recognise his work from Nameless Horrors and Pulp Cthulhu.

Issue 2 also features submissions from listeners. We have been sent a selection of monsters and would like you to judge them, picking out the most nightmarish. We also have also received some artwork and articles to inspire your games, and we are sure you will be as delighted with them as we are.

Posted in Site News, The Blasphemous Tome, The Good Friends of Jackson Elias | 1 Comment